Five years ago, I started this blog as a simple way to let my family and friends know where I was in the world. Its purpose morphed over time, gradually allowing me to find and own my voice. Now, I have a website that showcases my new “portfolio career” – a combination of consulting, coaching, and writing. It’s not what I expected and more than I could have hoped for when I left my full-time job. I’m often asked how I made the transition. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
Once I exited my job, an encouraging friend invited me to visit him in Spain. With all my unused air miles, I bought a one-way ticket to Barcelona. It was one-way on purpose. I wanted the freedom to wander, unfettered, for the first time in decades.
I needed to gain a new perspective away from everyday obligations, expectations and questions of what the heck I was going to do next. It was the necessary first step to get me out of my comfort zone and into exploration mode.
And explore, I did! Spain, Greece, Italy and France . . . yet the greatest exploration was slowing down long enough to listen to my thoughts. Who did I want to be in my 3rd act? What did I want to contribute? What lifestyle was available to me? So many questions! I accepted that I didn’t need to know all the answers; they would unfold over time, just like my travel unfolded, pretty haphazardly, over six weeks.
That first step, the gift of travel, allowed space and time to just be. I cleansed my mental palette and restored my creative juices. By the time I got home, I didn’t have a ton of answers but I did have a clear head, a full heart and a yearning to do more exploration.
When I left my job, I had visions of becoming a solitary writer but after a while, I was roaming around the house missing my peeps! I didn’t miss the daily grind but I did miss human connection. I realized I needed to go in search of new tribes.
First stop was the Commonwealth Club. I loved all their programs but could never make it to San Francisco by 6:00 p.m. on a weeknight! Now, I was free to go any time I wanted and after a particularly memorable book signing event with Dusty Baker, I promptly signed up to volunteer. That opened up a new world of friendships bound by a thirst for knowledge and a curiosity about the world.
Next, I joined the California Writers Club. I sat in the back of the room for almost two years, intimidated by all the talent at the monthly meetings. Yet, the strong desire to learn the craft of writing and bond with all the encouraging authors, inevitably had me raising my hand and volunteering. Voila! A new tribe.
When I began to explore a coaching career, I found (and continue to find) multiple cohorts and tribes brought together by a passion and purpose to help others. They are deeply embedded in my life as they challenge, support and celebrate my journey.
There were also a lot of organizations that didn’t work out. Volunteering is a bit like Goldilocks – trying it out to see if it fits. I learned to fail fast and move on, trusting my instincts to guide me, which is the third T in making transitions.
Maybe it was my theater training or maybe years of work experience but one of my strongest beliefs (and favorite phrases) was “trust the process.” Most of the time, I didn’t know what the process looked like, I just knew there was one. It might be messy and chaotic, but if I stayed present and adaptable, the outcome was usually far better than originally planned. This worked in the workplace. Now it was time to test it out in my personal life.
I learned to trust my intuition. Saying no to jobs that looked identical to the job I just left; say yes to jobs that looked challenging and interesting. That brought wonderful new clients, some of whom are now dear friends.
I learned to trust others. I know in my heart I would never have gotten into coaching without trusting the encouragement of a former work colleague. (Thank you, David!)
I learned to trust enough to say yes when my usual default would have been no; trusting enough to get curious and explore. None of this happened overnight. There were lots of detours, doubts and demons along the way. It took time.
And that’s the last thing I learned. Even though I had a fairly clear financial plan when I left the corporate world, I didn’t have a fully fleshed out plan on what to do next. I knew I needed the gift of time.
In the five years since that decision, I had time to be with both my parents when they got sick and passed away. I had time to battle breast cancer and come out the other side. I had time to learn new skills and build a portfolio career; one that utilized more of my talents and supported my desire to show up in the world with passion and purpose.
Today and Tomorrow
Being able to articulate this approach has taken a bit of the fear out of making transitions. I am continually transitioning and I doubt I’ll ever be done. In fact, I don’t want to be done!
I am, after all, never lost . . . just exploring.